I have completed my latest shawl project in black malabrigo sock wool and I am thrilled to bits with it!
On Saturday it was off the needles and onto The Boy to see how the beautifully clever construction drapes around the neck and shoulders.
I blocked it yesterday and the drape is wonderful. I was sceptical about the tension in this pattern which calls for 4mm needles but the final result is better than I could have hoped for.
This pattern has not been plain sailing by any means. I have never been this relieved to be finished with a project. But strangely I want to make more (it really is a fabulous design!). I had to rip back huge sections of the work twice, baffled at how difficult I found it to follow line by line instructions. Clearly this is a lesson to be learned. Charts are my friends! I need to understand the structure of a pattern and check that it is developing correctly. The visual representation is more immediate for understanding repetitions and differences in a single line and is the only way I can keep track of which stitches I’ve completed.
I think I’ve always been slightly flummoxed by line by line instructions but I had previously put it down to just being bad at knitting. It makes me wonder how many people are put off at an early stage just due to the style of pattern writing they’ve encountered. The retro craft fair has popularised the ‘vintage’ pattern book and it is amazing how little information was offered in previous decades. As much as people like to complain about Ysolda Teague’s Orchid Thief on Ravelry (even in its edited and clarified versions) we are truly a spoiled generation when it comes to pattern writing.
Even so, it was not clear to me how the shawl was constructed and the main source of this confusion was probably the image of the completed shawl which was provided. Looking on Ravelry (where there are nearly 1000 of these shawls!) you can find a wide variety of blocked shapes, some rounded, some spiked, and, until I went through the process, I don’t think I had any basis on which to make my decision (which I then regretted and changed the pin positions half way through!). I think one of the most important pieces of information you need in a shawl pattern is the image of the flat fabric blocked in a balanced way that doesn’t distort the stitches unduly.
Here’s my offering:
In the pdf pattern, there is an image of the shawl laid out as if it is a standard triangular shawl with the top two points pulled out to the sides, distorting the diamond mesh on the front pieces.
In this picture you can see I chose to pin out the points of the diamonds in the scallops but this was making it too spikey so I adjusted them a few hours later to pin out the straight edges between these points. Most important though is getting the spines straight and perpendicular and pulling the garter stitch edging of the ‘extra’ panels into a gentle curve (I used flexible blocking wires for this) allowing the flowers to spread out fully.
It was a month from beginning to end and if I do start an orchid factory for the present season I’ll be able to get them out faster than that now I know how the thing works. I’m not sure if any written instruction could have done the same job as going through the process of knitting the shawl itself but perhaps this post might help to clarify things for somebody.
If you’re attempting the Orchid Thief, I wish you luck!